It’s that time of year again…all of the ‘Year in Review’ television segments are being aired, which often leads us to review our personal year and reflect upon the ups, downs, successes, failures, and everything in between. What usually follows next is a flurry of impulsive decisions aimed at reaching unrealistic goals, termed ‘New Year’s Resolutions.’ These serve to motivate us in the subsequent weeks to work out, get up earlier, get to bed earlier, connect with family more, and so forth. Inevitably our enthusiasm fades, motivation dims, and the gloominess of winter smother any lingering hope of change. By February we are beating ourselves up for our lack of commitment to our resolutions and by March we forget we attempted any change at all.
If you are like me, after a few yearly cycles of this I have grown cynical of the concept of resolutions and uncertain about my personal ability to create and sustain positive change. But what if we approached this is a new way? What if we had an accurate understanding of where we are at in life and were able to set realistic goals for increased wellness?
Consider the following areas and what potential exists for change in each one:
Relationships – who do I enjoy being around? Who brings warmth and laughter into my life? How can I increase my time with those individuals? Who sucks the energy out of me and seems to always see the glass as half empty? How can I limit my interactions with them and avoid feeling guilty about it?
Exercise – How do I enjoy being active? What energizes me? What is a realistic goal to increase my level of activity? Whether it’s walking the dog, joining a volleyball league, or signing up for a 5k, it’s helpful to find others who enjoy the same thing and be intentional in planning it into the week.
Nutrition – what meal of the day seems the most stressful to prepare? What small changes can I make to eat less processed food and enjoy what I eat? Consider exploring some food blogs and find recipes that seem easy, delicious, and use fresh ingredients. A little bit of planning goes a long ways in meal preparation and grocery shopping. Create a system that works for you, maybe an app or good old pencil and paper list.
Sleep – Often getting to sleep is the most difficult part. What routine can be created which cues the body and brain it’s time for sleep? Scented candles, dim lighting, herbal tea, and soft music combine to inform all of the senses that it is time to relax and prepare for sleep. Putting phones on do not disturb and using guided meditations to help the brain slow down and transition to sleep mode.
Finances – what are the major stressors financially? Credit cards, student loans, car payments? Reviewing credit card and bank statements can be helpful to identify where money is going and find expendable expenses that will free up more cash to pay debts. Prioritize them based on interest rates and then calculate how much of each paycheck can be used to pay towards them. Setting doable monthly payment creates structure and allows one to see tangible progress being made towards paying it off.
Each of these five areas of life present opportunities for change, so as you consider the questions and reflect on your life, write down what comes to mind for goals for the coming year. Keep them few and realistic and start making it happen! Change does not occur overnight, it involves many small decisions throughout each day guided by an overarching goal or intention.
May you develop meaningful goals for the coming New Year and continue to create positive change in your life as you move forward.
Jay Callahan, MS, LADC
Counselor, PRIDE Institute